Archive for the 'Music' Category

Review: Rob Thomas – Cradlesong

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

It’s been 4 yours already since his first venture into his solo career, so expectations were high. Add the fact that he’s proven to be one of the most talented singer/songwriter, and you can imagine how sky-high I was when the wait was finally over.
A whopping full CD (14 tracks, excluding several bonus tracks to be found elsewhere), it’s full of his signature “let’s change the game a bit” style, so it doesn’t resemble anything before. It’s a feat not a lot of artists can replicate (pick up any CD from any artist, and you can either always hear the resemblance with their previous material). But here we have it again, and just after 2 listens, I the wait was all worth it. While the excellently smooth power ballads are mostly gone (Ever The Same, Problem Girl, etc), it’s replaced with some more fast paced rocky attitude songs (including a more predictable layout with clear chorus lines, bridge etc, something I actually don’t fancy that well), but still containing his uniquely soulful voice.
Statistics wise, it’s even better. Even with the best albums, as picky as I am, I usually don’t like a lot. But the percentage of damn good songs, good songs, and acceptable songs are even higher this time around.
Seems this is the gem of this year to cherish. A definitely must-have, regardless of your favorite musical genre.9-.

Fill it up…

Monday, June 9th, 2008

…yeah, that’s what I thought. Coinciding with my trip to the far east, are a bunch of new album releases, so I thought I’d try them all during my long trip (18h) on the airplane.
Oh what a disappoint this weekend was (I decided not to try them out later, but do a quick pre-scan of the songs).

Most horrible:

Usher – Here I Stand: Of the 17 songs, the 2 worthy ones I already had before the album release ! It’s much of the same R&B you’d expect.

Alanis Morissette – Flavors Of Entanglement: Previously doing a promo tour, visiting talk shows, she would do a nice acoustic version of Underneath. Imagine my surprise with this techno-beat heavy album. It’s worse than combining all the worst songs from Under Rug Swept and So-Called Chaos. Even the bonus CD doesn’t add anything to it.

Amee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers: Booooooring.

Jakob Dylan – Seeing Things: OMGMBS (Oh my god, more boring stuff).

Weezer – Weezer (Red Album): Still with the high school prank lyrics, but now without the ability to churn out a solid song (like previously A Perfect Situation), you don’t even care if the lyrics are funny or not.


Jewel – Perfectly Clear: Going hardcore country again, previous albums mixed a poppy style to it. This one is hence less easy listening but some songs seem to be up to standard.


Leona Lewis – Spirit: An older album, but seems to be the summer hit album. Totally okay-ish pop. Save for a few slower boring ones, this looks like it’s going to be the album of the year.

Review: Carrie Underwood – Carnival Ride

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

This should actually a dual album review, since I tried both her debut album (after winning Idols 4 about 2 years ago) and her follow-up album after noticing she was riding an awards wave about 3 stories tall (songs from her debut album are still nominated for the 2008 Grammies). Even though I don’t like the all-out country/western songs (what she gets nominated most for), the debut album was instantly grabbing, with soulful pop with only the slightest touch of the southern influences.
Her second album is definitly not as powerful in that sense. It’s geared more towards the country scene, hence I like less songs. Still there are a handful of uptempo swingers and her voice (and appearance) is still nothing but stunning.
In a time where you start longing for new Faith Hill or Leann Rimes material, this is a storm flushing away those desires. She definitely stands on her own (even though I didn’t notice it at first), and if you stick around for the end credits of Enchanted (the movie), there nothing but to smile to yourself for recognising her unique voice in a new song. First album is a firm 8½, this second album I’d give a 7½.

Review: Jimmy Eat World – Chase This Light

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Having only the opportunity to listen to their last album (Futures, 2004), I know they’re quite a valid rockband with certain qualities. Less than a handful of songs were picked though, mostly dropping them because of their heavy tone and dark mood.
Now comes an album with songs so positive and uplifting, it’s actually depriving older hardcore fans, seeing this as a wrong move. But for me, it’s excellent, only needing to drop one slower song, while the rest features more anthemic (almost poppy) choruses and almost sing-along qualities, but never selling out to their own rock style. All in all, quite refreshing (though some of the lyrics lack depth and don’t make a lot of sense).7½.

Review: Dashboard Confessional – Shade of Poison Trees

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

I had to crack down their last year’s album, after liking the two previous before that. But the trend is going in the worst direction possible… downwards. While I couldn’t call their last album really listenable, this one is absolutely dreadful. It’s a mix of their signature mellow to uptempo guitar play combined with his emo voice, but this time, it’s laden throughout with irritating, cloudy and depressive lead melodies, while some are more suitable for children songs. And that even includes the lyrics, “Fever dreams, can only hunt you, till the fever breaks. It can only hunt you till the fever breaks (repeat zillion times)”, sung in a very lullaby fashion. These songs are not just bad, they’re despicable.3.

Review: matchbox twenty – Exile on Mainstream

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

It’s been twelve years already, and while keeping a pretty low profile overall (no world fame with screaming fans running behind them), they have managed to score the most #1 hits in the adult contemporary hit lists of all times at the home front. And it’s not strange, there hasn’t been one band who has churned out album after album so different from each other, while still having that same instantly grabbing wow-factor kinda quality.
Now this is mostly a greatest hits album, but out of the 6 new songs, 4 already deserve that diamond encrusted life long monster hit – plaque, that one I only give to the most special songs. That’s because, once again, they go a new direction (this time a rocking uptempo big band style), but still make it their own. Amazing production value means musically it’s sound, and vocally is also a non-brainer. Their uniquely sharp and vividly imaginative lyrics suck you in to listen to songs over and over again (for instance “You’re bad mood just ties my hands, Turns my cartwheels into head stands”).
Grading only the new songs, with 66% hit rate (while good albums rarely go above 30%) means it’s definitely a 4 thumbs up.8½. (Full album. 10-)

Review: Bruce Springsteen – Magic

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Another album promoted as an E-Street Band collaboration, it’s a bit overshadowed by Bruce’s political stance (or just his disgust for Bush). Let me tell you, with lyrics like “This is radio nowhere, is there anybody”, and “And the girls in their summer clothes, In the cool of the evening light, The girls in their summer clothes, Pass me by alive out there?”, you have nothing to worry about. There are still those story telling types of songs, but it somehow never quite catches on (at least with me, never reaching the level of songs like “The River”). Furthermore, musically it’s pretty much what you expect (I probably couldn’t really distinguish a song from this album from a song of his previous album, The Rising). As an album, magically, it has no powers. It’s easy listening, but nothing really grabbing your attention.6.

Review: James Blunt – All The Lost Souls

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

2 Years down the road, but still only the one smash-hit song that’s imminently bound to this singer/songwriter is You’re Beautiful. And even though his voice combined with ultra-sweet songs swept me over and got me to award his first album with an 8- (slightly over-rated, now it seems), the party train just has to stop here. Reason is that I thought there was longevity in the album, time has proven it otherwise. Admittedly, they are still high quality, but somehow lose the fight due to being only sweet.
Like his previous album, you’ll have to do with just 10 songs. His first single is 1973, and signals this album will be about the same, sweet combined with his unique voice. You can’t really fault him on quality again, but I already know how this will unfold over a longer period (also lacking a break-out hit, unlike last time). So, for fans waiting for another album without too many changes, go for it. I’ll just pick the one or two songs from it, and will probably come across this album on the next “Play All” command in my WinAmp Media Library (not often).7.

Review: Lifehouse – Who We Are

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Of their past albums, I’ve selected less than a handful of songs, and this album is no difference. Most of the songs I can dispatch to the dislike-bin with mere seconds of listening. Others I give several tries, but to no avail. Those songs just seem to be missing that magic to make it a hit. I know they’re able to make some hits (though never impressing with originality), but they keep using the same template for their songs, and that can’t be good in the long run. With only a moderately capable voice, you need to excel with your music and lyrics, and frankly, they don’t. I think, now already at their 4th album, they’re definitely going downhill, from being too generic to no hit potential at all.4.

Review: Bon Jovi – Lost Highway

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Marketed as a new thangg, Bon Jovi meats Nashville, it’s strange to make Make a Memory their first release single release. It’s co-written by Desmond Child, and he’s the least Nashville-ish of the album’s collaborators.
No matter though, the other album tracks make it quite clear where it’s all heading. It’s the light instruments, he likes of banjos and mandolins, setting the tone and pace here. Longer melodic verses and more subtle choruses finish of this nice rock/country merger. Guest vocals by country singer (most notable Leann Rimes) is added for recognition.
While it’s clear now the songs with the all-too regular voice of singer Jon Bon Jovi combined with the still unspectacular lyrics aren’t really going to grow on me, the musical composition gives a warm fuzzy feeling. That means while I won’t drop these songs too often on my current playlist, when they are finally played, the positive buzz will keep my finger from the fast forward button. It’s a worty benchwarmer till the next big thing hits the stores (Jewel, Faith Hill, Shania, anyone ?).7+.

Review: Maroon 5 – It Won’t Be Soon Before Long

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

It’s been a while since their smash-hit album from 2002, and that one is actually still riding high on the charts (#17 Amazon). I personally can’t judge that album (Songs About Jane), since over-airplay works as a deterrent for me (This Love & She Will Be Loved). I do know it was a fusion of Pop, Rock and R&B.
But most will hear a definite shift in gears with their new single (Make Me Wonder), being more funky than ever. And the album, while still fusing more styles, is funk-based. It’s up-tempo groovy happiness, but somehow I never seem to catch the wave, and so I can’t be really positive about this album. Of it, I can appreciate a few easy-listening tracks, but that as far as it goes. I guess it’s just not catchy enough.6-.

Review: Linkin Park – Minutes to Midnight

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Can’t say I’ve ever been impressed enough to listen to a whole CD by them, but I thought, after they’ve been building their radio friendly image, I just might digest full album after all. Sure I know their pop-rock-rap hits, highly infective, but that only last a few minutes. Then there’s the really heavy stuff, which I really can’t stomach.
And this album has a few of those distorded big’ol-yellers. The rock-rap part however, has been diminished to less than a handful. Newly introduced are a few slower songs, all of them failing to grip you.
All in all, it lacks melodic punch. A few do have some kind of build-up, but in the end they never deliver. Of course, when you enter the music world with a signature song like In The End, all songs following it will resemble it too closely or they’re just too different. After 7 years, they still can’t completely shake that off.5.

Review: Avril Lavigne – The Best Damn Thing

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

She went from super-poppy (Let Go, 2002) to ultra-easy-listening pop-rocky (Under My Skin, 2007) to what is the trend now. Tough-girl semi-rapping/shouting (following the way Fergie and Gwen Stefani are boring the airwaves) while a heavy punky guitar riff distorts the background noise. While the previous incarnations looked like it was moving to more adult contemporary stuff, the opening single Girlfriend is clearly for the younger teens to pre-teens (as evidenced by the playful video clip and popularity on YouTube (close to 16 million views)). Even worse, it’s quite representative for the album as a whole. This is clearly not the best damn thing for me.4-.

Review: The Ataris – Welcome The Night

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

While I only had a few songs from this Indiana (US) based rock group, I knew I had an affinity for their unpretentious solid rock style, only hearing them in their post punk-rock era, just like I do with so many other groups, for instance the Goo Goo Dolls. You know those songs, you listen to them and it’s just too easy not to scream along loudly (take for instance, In This Diary, or The Night that the Lights Went Out in NYC). Why not handle the air guitar while your at it ? Not to mention the air drums.
Anyway, that’s kinda gone with this new album. Bombastic is a word that comes to mind. Both the type of music, and how it’s almost like there is a totally new singer involved (searching the internet, it seems it’s still the same singer, strangely). It’s a pretentious over-dramatised rough version of The Cure’s Robert Smith. And that bugs me.
So there are high tempo rock songs, witch screeching heavy electric guitars, but it still kinda depress me. I’m not even going to touch the slower songs. It takes time to listen what’s really behind the noise generated by the guitars, and some subtlety can be discovered given enough (a LOT!) time, and for that, it gets points. But it’s just not enough. It’s too far gone from my comfort zone.5½.

Review: Hanson – The Walk

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

A few years into the indepedent world of recording, they have released several CD’s and DVD’s through their own 3CG production and record label company. Through that process, it was the extremele difficult birth of Underneath (which was basically in the finishing stages when they broke free from the record label), followed by the live CD set Live and Electric, and their own feature length documentary. This docu, about the above mentioned long process of getting Underneath released, appropiately titled Strong Enough to Break, is now part of the The Walk promo and is freely downloadable through iTunes (and it’s pretty interesting too).
Album was said to be very different from their previous material, and so it definitely is. There’s no doubt they’ve grown over the years, from the full pop Middle of Nowhere, to the pop rock of This Time Around and Underneath, still they’ve managed to create and evolve their own sound.
For this album, they dropped the highly melodic verses and instantly recognisable choruses from before. Riffs and long hooks are traded in for a steady rhythm, set all the way to the end, while the lyrics will provide the extra depth. If you liked last album’s bonus track Dream Girls, you will know what I mean, and probably like this album. Lyric-wise, they’ve veered away from writing only love songs. If you come across lines like “On the third floor of a hotel lies a pregnant flamingo dancer, in the bath tub is a razor, and she’s planning a great escape”, you know you need time to let it sink in properly.
There are a few minor points that begs for answers though. Knowing Taylor provides the most dynamic vocals, you wonder why Watch Over Me is recorded on one of Isaac’s bad voice days. Same goes for Zac on Fire on the Mountain, and several other songs in a lesser degree. While the oldest and the youngest brothers have always done a few songs on previous albums, it’s probably more noticable now that they’re going for more vocally challenging material. Also, on the few songs where they build around their own verse/chorus style (Running Man, Tearing it Down, Something Going Around), it sounds particular weak compared to their newer rhythm style (Been There Before, Georgia, Watch Over Me, I Am).
Commercial success or not, they’ll be around for quite a while, proving they do it for the music and not the money, and taking their creatively independent music always a step further. And that thought alone, will make this album all the more enjoyable.8 (UK/US Release)/8+(for the Japanese album, with two extra tracks).